3.23.2011

recalculating


For spring break my husband and I took our girls to Michigan. Many of our friends took trips to warmer climates such as Florida, Texas and the Bahamas. But my extended family is in Michigan, and in my book, qualilty time with family trumps good weather any day. It's a good thing I feel this way, because we drove right into freezing rain and several inches of snow.


Our car trip provided our first real opportunity to use my husband's new GPS navigator, whom we have affectionately named Camille. She sent us through Chicago's Skyway, and we obeyed, even though for the last 12 years we have primarily taken the Tri-State to Michigan. Traffic was horrendous once we reached the circle, and my husband was able to draw from his experience of having learned to drive in Mexico City, bypassing the congestion, taking us on alternate routes until we re-entered the tollway. Camille sounded almost frantic as Bernie consistently ignored her suggestions, repeating over and over "recalculating" until finally we were back on course.


I didn't get too bent out of shape over the delay, because not only did I have the visit with my family to look forward to, but Bernie and I were going to one of our favorite places ~ Harbor House Inn, in Grand Haven, Michigan.


Harbor House Inn is a beautiful Victorian bed and breakfast, with 20 unique rooms, overlooking Lake Michigan. Grand Haven is a lovely little town on Michigan's shoreline, with cozy restaurants and charming shops. And for Bernie and me, these two places come together to form the most perfect retreat.


The first time I set foot inside the Inn was about 13 years ago, and I was not a guest. It was July 4th, and I was with my family across the street, waiting for fireworks to begin. Seven months pregnant with our oldest daughter, I needed to use the bathroom urgently. I entered the Inn and asked to use the restroom, and the woman at the desk kindly obliged. I am certain that the hospitality and mercy the staff extended to me that summer influenced our decision to return to Harbor House Inn, this time as guests.


This is now our fifth visit, and in the car on the ride over, I was thinking about why I love coming here so much. I have traveled to beautiful places in the world, and I've seen famous landmarks: Big Ben and Buckingham Palace; the cathedrals in Barcelona, Spain; the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore. I've been to the Caribbean and to the coasts of Mexico. I have visited amazing museums and art institutes in great cities like Chicago, New York, London, and Mexico City.


And yet relaxing on the wicker furniture on the screened-in, wrap-around porch at Harbor House Inn, looking out over the peaceful water ~ it is truly one of the most special places I have ever been. And I think this is precisely because there is no sight-seeing to be done, no grand architecture to behold, and no must-visit museums. In addition, there are no people to visit, phone calls to make, errands to run, or meals to prepare. I am not interrupted by thoughts about how my daughter doesn't have any clean socks or how we are out of milk. The phone does not ring, the clock is not my master, and I am able to completely relax. I am able, in a way that I normally am not, to be still. To be quiet. To read, and journal. To really talk to God and listen.


Thoughts of the porch kept beckoning me, and when we had finally dropped the girls off at my mom's and driven 20 more miles to Grand Haven, it was sort of like coming home. The familiar streets and restaurants, and the big, picturesque Harbor House Inn looked just as inviting as the first time I saw it. We entered through the back, ducking out of the freezing rain, and made our way to the front desk to check in. At some point, after scanning the quaint living room with the blazing fireplace, and the dining tables calling out for delicious food and conversation, I noticed the porch. It was empty. No patio furniture, nothing. As I processed the information my eyes were sending to my brain, I could hear Camille's mocking voice in my mind. Recalculating...


I stood briefly on the porch with a steaming cup of coffee in my hand, eating the best peanut butter cookie I think I've ever had. And after a few moments I decided that it was a good call to wait until Spring actually showed up before setting up the porch. It was rainy and cold, and with zero sunshine, I was surprised at how the noise from the street overrode the view of the water.


Surprises. Unforseen twists and turns. Unmet expectations. We stayed in the Captain's Cottage, a new addition to the B&B. It's a renovated, 1900's farmhouse next door to the main inn, complete with it's own porch that was also out of season. And you know what? It was perfect. A cozy fireplace, a comfy wicker chair situated in front of large corner windows with a gorgeous view of the water, and nautical decor, including a slightly sarcastic painting in the living room that says, 'Grand Haven, fun in the sun'.



We skipped our usual dining choice in town, and opted instead for Bil-Mar, a restaurant about a mile down the road overlooking the water. The main entree was nothing special, but I'm still thinking about the appetizer and dessert. We started our meal with fried cauliflower and homemade ranch dressing, and finished with turtle ice cream pie.



Our girls joined us for the second day; we played "yahtzee", had dinner at Kirby Grill, and watched "Father of the Bride" before bed. No, this visit was not the same as our last one, over five years ago. It was different. But I am different, too. We are now a family of five. I write more on my laptop than I do in my journal. I am in a different season of life. I enjoyed some solitude, time to connect with my husband and kids, and then several days with family up north. It was not entirely what I had expected, but few things are. It was, however, exactly what I needed.



Our ride back to Chicago was long ~ we were tired, but our 'buckets' were full with great memories of our trip and our time with family and friends. And although we again ignored most of Camille's directions, when we turned onto our cul-de-sac, my heart warmed when she said, "You have arrived. Home."



http://www.harborhousegh.com/



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